Just because the temperatures are falling doesn’t mean you have to give up your fit living efforts and resign yourself to a winter spent indoors. If outdoor exercise is your preferred method of staying in shape, you can still reap the benefits of your workouts even if it’s not a sunny, 70-degree day. All it takes is a little preparation and a good understanding of the right gear. In no time, you’ll find yourself back to pounding the pavement – even if it is a littler wetter than usual. Here are some cold-weather exercise tips to help you get through the season.
“If the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or the wind chill falls below -18 degrees, stay inside.”
Check the conditions
While you should be able to get a decent workout in on most days, sometimes you may have to admit defeat and bring it indoors. Check the forecast before you head outside to get an idea of the temperature, wind and moisture levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, those factors, along with the length of time that you’ll be outside, are the key considerations you need to assess when planning a safe cold-weather workout.
If the temperature is below 0 degrees Fahrenheit or the wind chill falls below -18 degrees, you might be better off staying inside, as frostbite is a real risk. Unless you have waterproof gear, rain and snow can make you more vulnerable, too, so consider staying indoors.
Know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite
Being exposed to cold weather for a long period of time can put you at risk of hypothermia, which is when your body temperature drops below 95 degrees. Symptoms of hypothermia include the inability to think clearly or move easily, shivering, exhaustion, memory loss, drowsiness, fumbling hands, slurred speech, pain in the extremities, a slow and weak pulse, collapse or unconsciousness.
Frostbite is another cold-weather injury that occurs when skin tissue freezes. When it’s cold outside, any exposed skin can freeze. The symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a pale or bluish skin tone in one or several extremities. Skin that’s affected by frostbite might feel hard and cause an aching, tingling or stinging pain. Frostbite commonly occurs on the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes, so keep these areas bundled.
Multiple layers can ensure you don’t overheat or get chilled.
Map your route
Women’s Health magazine stressed the importance of planning a safe route before you head outside. According to the source, finding safe, stable footing is your main priority. Look for plowed streets and well-lit sidewalks so you can better avoid black ice. It’s also a good idea to choose a loop around your neighborhood that you can go through as many times as you need to. That way, if you get tired, cold or wet, you’ll be close to home.
It takes more than a jacket to keep you warm when you head outside to exercise in cold weather. It’s easy to overheat since exercise itself generates plenty, but the evaporation of sweat can make you lose heat and feel chilled. Wearing multiple light layers is your best bet, as you’ll be able to bundle up at the start of your workout and take layers off if you start to get overheated.
Start with a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, to draw the sweat away from your body. Don’t wear cotton clothing, which will stay wet next to your skin and may contribute to hypothermia. On top of that, add a layer or two of fleece or wool for insulation, and finish up with a waterproof, breathable outer layer.
“You can lose about 50 percent of your body heat from an uncovered head.”
Don’t forget to bring a hat, since you can lose about 50 percent of your body heat from an uncovered head. Wear gloves or mittens to protect against frostbite. If it’s really cold, a face mask can help protect your nose, cheeks and chin, and breathing through the fabric will warm up the air and protect your lungs.
Warm up and cool down
Any workout requires a proper warm-up and cool-down to help protect your muscles. Women’s Health recommended jogging in place or walking around indoors for five minutes before you head into the cold. Then, give your body some time to adjust to the colder weather by taking 30-second breaks every few minutes for the first 10 minutes of your workout.
When you’re done for the day, slow down your pace for the last few minutes and then take your cool-down inside. Do your stretches inside and keep moving for several more minutes before you take your layers off and hop in a nice hot shower.